This paper reports the results of a qualitative study that examines the links between neighbourhood spaces and quality of life for nine formerly homeless women who live in a supportive housing development in Ottawa, Ontario. It explores a local park that participants subjectively identified as the most meaningful place influencing their health and quality of life. Looking at the neighbourhood from the participants' perspectives, this paper discusses the links between access to nearby urban green space, feelings of well-being, and having a sense of belonging to the broader community. The primary methods used in our study were photovoice, whereby participants were asked to take pictures of both healthy and unhealthy aspects of their neighbourhood, and participant observation of the women's interactions with their immediate and neighbourhood living environments. The participants used photographs as a tool to help describe their experiences of the park as not only a therapeutic or health-promoting place, but also an un-therapeutic or health-denying place. Participant observation helped fill the gaps that women were unable to articulate in the interviews. The results reveal that participants placed more emphasis on inclusive (free of charge) social events and the ability to interact with others at the park than on its aesthetics. This finding supports the notion that while beautification certainly has value, resources to support free community events in public spaces are at least equally important for establishing feelings of inclusion in the community among marginalized populations.

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Keywords Green space, Marginalized women, Neighbourhood park, Ontario, Ottawa, Sense of belonging, Supportive housing, Therapeutic spaces
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Journal Social Science and Medicine
Plane, J. (Jocelyn), & Klodawsky, F. (2013). Neighbourhood amenities and health: Examining the significance of a local park. Social Science and Medicine, 99, 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.10.008